Church of San Juan Bautista, Baños de Cerrato

The Church of San Juan Bautista or San Juan Bautista de Baños de Cerrato is a stone Early Medieval church (traditionally taken to be Visigothic) dedicated to St John the Baptist in the village of Baños de Cerrato, ancient Balneos, in the province of Palencia, in central Spain.

San Juan Bautista de Baños de Cerrato
34200 Baños de Cerrato, Palencia, Spain - panoramio (2).jpg
San Juan Bautista de Baños de Cerrato is located in Spain
San Juan Bautista de Baños de Cerrato
San Juan Bautista de Baños de Cerrato
41°55′15″N 4°28′20″W / 41.9208°N 4.47236°W / 41.9208; -4.47236Coordinates: 41°55′15″N 4°28′20″W / 41.9208°N 4.47236°W / 41.9208; -4.47236
LocationBaños de Cerrato, Castile and León, Spain
DenominationRoman Catholic
Architectural typeChurch
Completed10th century


The church is located in the fertile Pisuerga River valley, near the confluence with the Carrión River. In Roman times, the area offered opportunities for vacations and relaxation, with many private villas dotting the landscape. In Roman times as under the Visigoths, this was an important grain-producing region. Since the coming of the railways the nearby town of Venta de Baños is larger and more important than Baños de Cerrato.

Replica of original consecration inscription

An original church (which is not the one currently standing) was commissioned by the Visigothic king Recceswinth of Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal), in the year 661 and whose solemn consecration ceremony is believed to have taken place on 3 January, 661. It has a consecration inscription over its entry, in awkward capital letters. This text is also preserved in a codex of the 10th century, copied from a Toledan manuscript from the 8th century. A literal translation would be:[1]

Forerunner of the Lord, martyr John the Baptist owns this seat, built as an eternal gift which I myself, King Recesvinto, devotee and lover of your name, dedicated to you in his own right, in the third year, after the tenth, as an illustrious companion of the kingdom, in the Era, six hundred and ninety-nine.

The church was built as a royal foundation under the control of the Bishops of Palencia. The excavations that were carried out in 1956 and 1963 yielded a medieval necropolis of 58 tombs to the north-west of the church and discovered three pieces of 7th-century bronze: two belt buckles in the shape of a lyre and one liturgical object.

The most recent archaeological studies have indicated that it is not Visigothic, but 9th century or more probably 10th century in date. On this basis the pre-Romanesque architecture could be described as Repoblacion or possibly Mozarabic.[2][3] Some arguments for this revised date include the odd inscription (which is a re-carve of the Visigothic original in non-Visigothic lettering), its unusual layout, the use of ashlar (unparalleled in buildings archaeologically dated to the Visigothic period), and the evident mismatched use of earlier 'Visigothic' carved stones in the frieze.


The church construction is of ashlar (squared stone, as against irregular rubble) set in a drywall manner (with no mortar). It and several other Visigothic churches built in Spain about the same time represent the last ashlar construction in western Europe until Charlemagne, and can be seen as the end of that ancient Roman building tradition in the west. George R.H. Wright notes the Syrian influence seen in the horseshoe-shaped arch in pre-Islamic Spain. The belfry above was added at a later date.[4]

Related siteEdit

The name of the village references baths, and there is a fountain, the Fuente de San Juan, near the church.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Inscripción de construcción del rey Recesvinto" [Construction inscription of King Recesvinto] (in Spanish). Translated by Palol, Pedro de. National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Retrieved 2017-11-10. (The date 699 corresponds to 661 because of the difference of 38 years between the Spanish era calendar and the anno Domini calendar.)
  2. ^ Walker, R. 2016. Art in Spain and Portugal from the Romans to the Early Middle Ages. Late Antique and Early Medieval Iberia 1 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press).
  3. ^ Caballero Zoreda, L. 2000. ‘La arquitectura denominada de época visigoda, ¿es realmente tardorromana o prerrománica?’ in Luis Caballero Zoreda and Pedro Mateos Cruz (eds.). Visigodos y Omeyas. Un debate entre la Antigüedad tardía y la alta Edad Media, 207-48. Anejos a AEspA 23 (Madrid: CSIC).
  4. ^ Wright, George R.H. (2000). Ancient Building Technology, Vol 1: Historical Background. Technology and Change in History. Leiden, The Netherlands: E.J. Brill. Illustration 54. ISBN 978-90-04-09969-2. OCLC 490715142.

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